Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.854-A Krueger/A.1248-A Peoples-Stokes)

The Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) (Bill S.854-A Krueger/A.1248-A Peoples-Stokes) would legalize the commercial sale of recreational marijuana to persons at or above the age of 21. If passed, the MRTA would allow individuals to obtain state licenses to grow marijuana and to sell marijuana. The license applications of persons who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses, and of the relatives of persons who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses, would be given “extra priority” under the MRTA. The MRTA would also allow the State of New York to profit from the sale of recreational marijuana through various taxes, including a sales tax of 13%.

The passage of the MRTA, or of similar legislation, would likely lead to the following consequences:

  1. Higher rates of marijuana use and marijuana addiction. A 2019 study by scholars at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and NYU Grossman School of Medicine showed that in four states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, marijuana use and marijuana addiction significantly increased in some age groups of teens and young adults.[1] Marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug.[2] Any measure that would lead to the increased use of that drug should not become law.
  1. Poorer public health. Short-term effects of marijuana use include “impaired short-term memory, perception, judgment and motor skills.” Marijuana use can also lead to “difficulty concentrating, dreamlike states, impaired motor coordination, impaired driving and other psychomotor skills, slowed reaction time, [altered] peripheral vision,” bronchitis, respiratory problems, lung damage, increased cancer risk,[3] panic attacks, paranoid delusions, and hallucinations.[4] In addition, the American Lung Association (ALA) warns that “[s]moking marijuana can harm more than just the lungs and respiratory system—it can also affect the immune system and the body’s ability to fight disease.”[5] Heavy marijuana use can lead to “decreased drive and ambition, shortened attention span, poor judgment, high distractibility, impaired communication skills, and diminished effectiveness in interpersonal situations.”[6] If legalizing recreational marijuana were to result in increased use of the drug, the health consequences of marijuana use would likewise become more widespread.
  1. More car accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), automobile accidents have increased in the states of Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington when compared with neighboring states that have not legalized marijuana for recreational use.[7] In New York, law enforcement officials have expressed concern that marijuana-impairment testing technology is not as accurate as alcohol-impairment testing technology.[8] Furthermore, the New York State Association of County Health Officials asserts that states where recreational marijuana has been legalized have experienced increases in emergency room visits and traffic fatalities.[9] 
  1. Continued illegal marijuana sales. Taxes and regulations drive up the cost of legally-sold marijuana, leading many users to purchase marijuana via the black market even in states that have legalized the drug.[10] An ongoing black market for recreational marijuana leaves openings for marijuana-related criminal enterprises—which are dangerous to public health and to public safety—to continue operating.[11]
  1. Insignificant or negative fiscal consequences. Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer have estimated that recreational marijuana legalization would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.[12] However, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) notes that other states have overestimated the revenue that would be generated by the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana.[13] In January 2019, The New York Times reported that tax revenue from marijuana sales in California was lower after recreational marijuana was legalized than it had been when the state only allowed medical marijuana.[14] Furthermore, states incur costs when they legalize recreational marijuana. A November 2018 study by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University found that for each dollar of tax revenue generated in Colorado due to recreational marijuana legalization, “Coloradans spent approximately $4.50 to mitigate [recreational marijuana’s] effects.”[15]


Advocates of the legalization and commercialization of recreational marijuana frequently describe their cause as a means to achieve social justice. Given the negative consequences that would result from inviting the marijuana industry to set up shop in New York, it would be more accurate to describe recreational marijuana legalization as a social injustice. Neither the MRTA nor any similar legislation should become law in the State of New York.


[1]  See https://www.healthline.com/health-news/cannabis-use-disorder-is-real-heres-who-is-being-affected, last accessed March 16, 2021; see also https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191113153049.htm, last accessed March 11, 2020.

[2]  See https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive, last accessed March 16, 2021.

[3]  See https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/body/effects.html, last accessed March 13, 2019.  

[4]  See https://www.livescience.com/50794-marijuana-intoxication-delusions-psychotic-symptoms.html, last accessed March 16, 2021.

[5]  See https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/marijuana-and-lung-health.html, last accessed March 13, 2019.

[6]  See https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/body/effects.html, last accessed March 13, 2019.

[7]  See https://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/53/6/1, last accessed March 13, 2019.

[8]  See https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/New-York-prosecutors-say-legal-pot-requires-13515300.php, last accessed March 13, 2019.

[9]  See https://nypost.com/2019/01/09/new-york-state-officials-fighting-legalization-of-marijuana/, last accessed March 13, 2019.

[10]  See https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickkovacevich/2019/03/13/cannabis-black-market-thriving-despite-legalization/#29233a565ea2, last accessed March 13, 2019; see also https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/us/buying-legal-weed-in-california.html, last accessed March 14, 2019.

[11]  See https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/07/21/legal-marijuana-black-market-227414, last accessed March 11, 2020.

[12]  See https://nypost.com/2018/05/15/new-york-could-make-some-serious-green-on-legalized-pot/, last accessed March 13, 2019; see also https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Cuomo-forecasts-300-million-recreational-13532117.php, last accessed March 13, 2019.

[13]  See https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2019/01/22/new-york-legal-marijuana-pitfalls-revenue/2615420002/, last accessed March 13, 2019.

[14]  See https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/us/buying-legal-weed-in-california.html, last accessed March 14, 2019.

[15]  See http://www.ccu.edu/centennial/policy-briefs/marijuana-costs/, last accessed March 13, 2019.